Windows IT Pro UPDATE--Windows Vista Hits the Home Stretch

Windows Vista Hits the Home Stretch

----------------| Windows IT Pro UPDATE |----------------

In This Issue *Windows Vista Hits the Home Stretch *From Windows IT Pro: Tactile Passwords *From the Community *Protect and Lock Down Your Desktops



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***Commentary: Windows Vista Hits the Home Stretch
by Paul Thurrott, News Editor, [email protected]

Last Friday, Microsoft released its final external prerelease version of Windows Vista, the so-called Release Candidate 2 (RC2) release. I say "so-called" because RC2 is really just a random interim build of Vista, and it hasn't undergone the level of testing one might expect of a true release candidate build. But naming issues aside, one thing is clear: Microsoft intends to finalize Vista this month and will ship the product to volume-license customers in November. A more widespread launch is still set for January.

If you haven't looked at Vista in a while, not much has changed since last month's RC1 release, but a great deal has changed since Beta 2, which shipped in May. RC2 performs dramatically better than previous prerelease Vista versions, and offers a surprisingly solid level of hardware and software compatibility (at least with 32-bit versions of the product). Some compatibility issues I noted with previous builds--notably with Adobe Photoshop Elements 4.0--have been addressed, which is wonderful. Less happily, I've seen a number of ActiveX controls fail to work properly in Vista and Internet Explorer (IE) 7. This suggests that businesses will need to be careful when testing their internal applications and Web sites with Vista.

There are numerous other questions remaining with Vista, however. Last week, Microsoft publicly unveiled the antipiracy efforts it will enforce with both Vista and Longhorn Server (the latter of which is due in late 2007), and for the first time, these efforts will dramatically impact businesses of all sizes. The news, alas, is not good.

First, Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) is being expanded to include a new feature called reduced functionality mode that will kick in when the system believes the OS is pirated. Today, when WGA detects a pirated installation, Windows XP displays annoying advertisements alerting you to the condition so that you can contact Microsoft and rectify the problem and obtain a legitimate product key. In Vista, the system still displays the advertisements, but it also shuts down most of the OS so that you can run IE for only an hour at a time and can perform shell-based management tasks. All other application functionality is turned off, including the ability to run third-party applications and open and edit data files.

Users that fail to activate Vista within 30 days will also see a number of changes. Vista features such as the Windows Aero UI and Windows ReadyBoost will simply not work. And other features, such as certain Windows Defender functionality, will only partially work. If you activate Windows, the system turns on the missing features.

For customers who install multiple copies of Windows, Microsoft is adding product activation to volume-license versions of Vista as well. Businesses with fewer than 25 client PCs can use new Multiple Activation Keys (MAKs); MAKs will be activated directly via a Microsoft public server, as are individual product keys. Businesses with 25 or more PCs, or five or more Windows Server machines, can use a new Longhorn Server feature called Key Management Services (KMS) to distribute, manage, and activate product keys across multiple machines (a version of KMS is coming for Windows Server 2003 as well).

The features together are part of something Microsoft calls Volume Activation 2.0. In a draconian move, volume-license versions of Vista will need to access a KMS-based server at least once every 180 days in order to stay genuine. And for the time being, you'll need to roll out a Longhorn Server in your environment to even use this functionality.

In short, it's unclear whether any businesses other than those already involved with Microsoft's Technology Adoption Program (TAP) will be rolling out Vista any time soon. Although I feel that Microsoft has a right to protect itself from software piracy, the new antipiracy controls seem a bit too strict and will add to the burden of IT administrators.


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***From Windows IT Pro

Tactile Passwords
Learn about a new way to authenticate users in Mark Edwards' latest posting to the Security Matters blog:

***From the Community

Have a question? Got answers? Join your peers in the Windows IT discussion forums:
Current Threads:
Temporary Internet Folder
Search Companion and Regedt32
USB 2.0 Enhanced Host Controller Driver

----- Just for Fun

Take a break and check out a fun little video at the following URL: -----

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~~~~ Hot Spot: ~~~~

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***New and Improved
by Blake Eno, [email protected]

Protect and Lock Down Your Desktops CrossTec released CrossTec Secure, a network protection tool for businesses not using Active Directory (AD) or for additional functionality to people who do use AD. CrossTec Secure protects Windows OSs and desktops from unwanted or malicious changes. Users can be prevented from deleting critical files and applications, making changes to the desktop, and saving or using specific applications. The software also blocks users from using CD and USB drives, or allowing only read-only access with a few mouse clicks. CrossTec Secure pricing begins at $17.25 per PC.

Tell Us About a Hot Product and Get a Best Buy Gift Card!
Have you used a product that changed your IT experience by saving you time or easing your daily burden? Tell us about the product, and we'll send you a Best Buy Gift Card if we write about the product in a future Windows IT Pro What's Hot column. Send your product suggestions with information about how the product has helped you to [email protected]


***Events and Resources: Windows Connections ConferenceCome learn about Vista, Exchange, Office, SharePoint, and more in Las Vegas, November 6-9, 2006, at Windows Connections and Microsoft Exchange Connections. There will be exciting announcements from Microsoft that no one should miss! There's no better conference value in the USA this fall.

As an IT pro today, chances are that you work in a "Windows Plus" environment. Learn from and meet industry experts Gil Kirkpatrick, Mike Otey, Dustin Puryear, and Randy Dyess, in this full day of training on managing Windows, Linux, UNIX, Apache, MySQL, and more. Join TechX World--coming to Washington, DC, on October 24, Chicago on October 26, Dallas on October 31, and San Francisco on November 2.

2006 PASS Community Summit November 14-17Join the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) as it hosts the premier event of 2006 dedicated exclusively to Microsoft SQL Server education and networking! Come experience first-hand more than 100 technical sessions presented by more than 80 user-experts, MVPs, and members of the Microsoft development team.

Whether you're an outsourced IT provider, a member of an in-house IT service staff, or simply provide remote support, this can't-miss Web seminar will help you discover how the right technologies can expand your services. You'll learn how to tap into a $30 billion market for IT services and expand your geographic reach. Live Web seminar: Tuesday, October 17

How do you manage vulnerabilities? If you depend on vulnerability assessments to determine the state of your IT security systems, you can't miss this Web seminar. Special research from Gartner indicates that deeper penetration is needed to augment your vulnerability management processes. Learn more today!


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